At such a young age, I never considered the existence of out space to be bigger than the universe God created for us. Man hadn’t landed on the moon yet, so what little I knew were the space walks and John Glenn. To think space went on and on forever … well, I suddenly felt so small and meaningless.
So, in the darkness and alone, when I learned that our galaxy was one of a uncountable number – I just about died right on the spot. (You remember last post about the world stopping?) Given this information was not on TV (where I knew it was mostly fake) and in found in a library book, I had to consider it true. That was the first blow to my min and difficult for me to understand – and I was confused as heck.
Then I thought … why is science, history, and religion so different? It seems like we are supposed to believe – but what? How am I supposed to know what is true? Another slap in the head with another thought … if religion is true, why is there less proof? Why do so many believe? How is it justified?
As you can see, I had a fertile mind (and still do). I loved understanding things and how it all fits together. My mother came to have a habit of saying: “You will be a jack of all trades and a master of nothing.” I was/am in awe of everything. (And she was right, I guess.)
And then to top it off – I panicked. Then I started thinking things like: Now I’ve been duped by everyone. Everyone is in on a conspiracy. Is there something I don’t know yet? What am I supposed to do and believe? This is where I am practically wailing (silently) in the cold attic.
All of my pain and agony started to come back. I put a lot of trust in religion. I invested all my hope in it. Now how do I approach religion and my spirituality? I felt my greatest growth and development as a person through experiences that began from a religious source. Now this astronomy thing …
I already had many traumatic experiences up to that point in my life (for example – I vividly remember being up close and intimate with the psychotic murder of a family next door as it happened).
Scared as heck, I tried to fit in as “normally” as possible, i.e. “not be seen or heard”. I did what I was told; did it without question; and did it to the best of my ability. My father conditioned us very well – we were all little child soldiers ready (and fearful) at his calling. I did it out of safety, a sense of belonging, and for acknowledgement. (I got none!)
Then I found religion; and upon discovering everything it stood for (to a child in distress) – I thought I hit the jackpot! It had all the answers to everything that was wrong in my world:
- Patience, forgiveness, unconditional love, corporal punishment, sacrifice, reward of paradise, threat of eternal damnation, and much, much more.
- It helped put my pain and suffering (and to my siblings) in a palatable acceptance of life
The biggest thing I noticed the religion I was born into did to people is what I witnessed as a power of belief and the changes it made to them.
Heck, for years, my father was transformed for 2 hours every Sunday morning for years as he proudly towed along his 8 kids to church. He even walked differently (with attitude)! When I caught an understanding of this a few years earlier, I knew there had to be something to being religious.
So, I remember thinking to myself that if I wanted any happiness in this world of plenty, then religion was the way to go. By that time, I was attending St. Michael’s Choir School in Toronto, Canada. I had the scholarship and the musical talents (piano/voice); and from that, religion wrapped me in a spiritual blanket. My inspiration was fueled with thoughts of hope, faith, humility, and service – all of which brought me great joy in those years, and they set another layer to my personal foundation.
Yes, I learned forgiveness, albeit the difficult way; and I still gained valuable lessons about people and myself. I still benefit greatly every day from these lessons learned.
A small confession:
Being a realist at the time (in hindsight, a budding Existentialist), I always felt the Bible wasn’t something to be literally believed. I understood clearly they were stories written down to teach us things. When I saw people expressing their 100% devotion to the faith, I didn’t understand how that could be so. But one thing for sure: I DID believe in Heaven an Hell – and now this astronomy.
I realize now that I was questioning the trust I put in Christianity. I trusted every other authority figure I met; and the level of trust had eroded to the point where I thought – at least in this case – that I didn’t believe enough. I thought I could do better, or look for more suffering, or put myself down and then I will be happy. And don’t get me wrong. I had a great many spiritual experiences with people over the years hence. But …
According to my plan, everything was going along great at this point. I learned to avoid my father’s wrath, I kept up my school marks, and I practiced the piano every day (the Conservatory was expensive!). Oh yeah – I prayed a lot too. Didn’t seem to make much difference though.
I’m sure you can understand how my life could change with this new knowledge. And I realize I was just a kid, but my thoughts grew with the expectations set upon me from all the adults in my life. All I know and remember from almost 50 years ago is that it was a common occurrence for the adults to have a plan for me and not tell me about it.
In a great lesson from that, I learned about Fear. I guess that’s why I have no issues with experimenting, discovering, change, creativity, expression, performance, and all the other great things about living life.
As you can see, my world was rocked. In a matter of about 2 hours one evening in the fall, I had (and wasn’t aware of it, btw) a personal experience that set in motion a path for a journey that would have me take on life with an unquenchable desire to understand the world.
(tomorrow – final part: How the next 40 years turned out …)